Thinking correctly under pressure

By Kathy O'Leary | 21 October 2020

What does T-CUP stand for? Thinking Correctly Under Pressure. Sir Clive Woodward’s inspirational advice to the no-doubt mesmerised audience at Solace’s fantastic virtual learning week felt highly relevant to this local authority chief executive trying to lead a council during the pandemic.

It was Jonny Wilkinson who first captured my attention during England’s successful World Cup campaign back in 2003. However, my husband, identified as a doppelgänger for Sir Clive by Matt Dawson when he sat in the audience at a recording of Question of Sport, was more interested in the man behind the team. He introduced me to Sir Clive’s book Winning!, which demonstrates how winners perform at their best when the pressure on them is the greatest.

As Sir Clive points out, talent alone is not enough. Relentless learning from every success and failure provides a repository of knowledge and experience from which to draw when you’re camped on your own line. The importance of ‘teamship’ in being ready to cope with any scenario thrown at you is paramount.

The parallels drawn with leading a council in challenging times are thought-provoking. Connecting, communicating and collaborating with our teams has never been more important than now. Although apart, we need to work more closely together. We need to tap into our collective wisdom to lead through change, solve problems fast and build resilience. By sharing and discussing the challenges we face as the second wave of the coronavirus crisis crashes over us, we can use our joint insight and judgement to identify the actions we need to take to survive and thrive.

That is exactly what we’ve been doing over the summer, reflecting on what we have learned at every twist and turn of our response to the first wave of the pandemic so that we are best prepared for the future. Switching back into response when we are also working on recovery requires dexterity and flexibility which councils up and down the country have successfully mastered. Local government is busy proving that we can juggle all the odd-shaped balls without dropping any.

Kathy O’Leary is chief executive of Stroud DC


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